Man creating man

A doll is a miniature figure resembling a human. Most often it also represents a human - similar models of gods also exist, but they are often venerated and are so more correctly known as idols. The doll has a head and a body, very often limbs as well, and the face can be everything from blank to a detailed copy of the real thing.

Dolls have been made since time immemorial, from wood and cloth, porcelain and rubber, wax and paper. Dolls are mainly thought of as toys for children, but they also serve several important functions for adults. In all their forms, they offer man a way to play God: Dolls jump when you make them jump, stand where you place them, and accept praise and scolding with the same emotionless face.

The term doll can also be used to refer to a girl who is nice and pretty, probably because she exhibits many of the same traits as a real doll. Depending on usage, it can be complimentary or derogatory, but few women go through their life wanting to be dolls.

Mere Child's play

Above all, a doll is a children's plaything. Their traditional role has been for girls to be practising motherhood, most importantly in caring for the little one, but also in learning to sew clothes and play-act tea parties. Archeologists have found dolls all around the world, from ancient Egypt to Greenland.

With the growing toy industry dolls have been developed for all purposes. Talking, eating, peeing and crawling baby dolls attempt to be a girl's best friend and her parents' nuisance. Barbie dolls encourage girls to learn useful skills of fashion and consumerism, while Action man and his ilk try to teach boys the same.

Dolls for Grown-ups

The game of dressing, undressing and redressing the mute companion reaches fruition in the clothes shop, where assistants dress life-size models of wood or plastic in the very latest fashion. These giant dolls seldom have detailed facial featurers, but are often blessed with erect nipples, for some unfathomable reason. Dolls without any clothes at all find their mission with very lonely men, who use them to satisfy their carnal desires.

Dolls and Death

With equal gusto, people have used dolls to represent both life and death. In China the clay men of Xi'an stand ready to serve their dead emperor, in Haiti voodoo dolls shaped in the likeness of an enemy seek to destroy his life, health or happiness. It has been thought that the little models put into tombs along with their dead inhabitant will come to life to serve him in the next life. Opposite, the shape of a person along with something personal of his should be enough to give him grievous injury in the voudoun tradition.


It was the night of the hunter’s moon, the full moon after the harvest. It was cold. You could see your breath. The fields were stripped and white as a broken girl.

I found her in that hollow place. Her name, written in stone. Where the trees are dark as men who think too much and the wind hisses.

These words, they are no longer mine. You make of them what you will. Once they’re penned, and you read them, my words belong to you.

As she belongs to me. I heard her cry, I rescued love where it was left. I brought her here, and dressed her in warm clothes.

I have made her whole, with only the simplest things. Baking soda. Salt. Old buttons for her eyes. I gave her pretty feet black shiny shoes.

I am poor. I make do with what I have. The rest I find in trash bins, alleyways and the like. I am not proud. I will take what falls from your table.

In the morning, I give her tea. At night, I comb her hair. She does not smile. She won’t smile falsely, either.

You will say that it’s a crime. Or out of pity, say I’m ill. You will hollow out a place for me where men think too much.

Do with me as you like, and my words as well. Hold them as you would a torch or scatter them like embers.

You, who tossed her aside like a Christmas tree after New Year’s. Who put her in the ground and call it proper, even holy.

You, who dress in black and weep, and call me mad.

These words, they are no longer mine once they leave my lips. Now they belong to you, who left her where the crosses stand, the moon bright as love.

She was cold. I could see my breath.

Now she belongs to me.

Doll (?), n. [A contraction of Dorothy; or less prob. an abbreviation of idol; or cf. OD. dol a whipping top, D. dollen to rave, and E. dull.]

A child's puppet; a toy baby for a little girl.


© Webster 1913.

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